let's veggie out
Tricks. Bribery. Sheer Force. This sounds like the latest Netflix spy movie, but actually, many parents end up resorting to these tactics as a result of frustration at attempts to get their children to eat vegetables. We know you’re exhausted, but there are better ways.
As parents, we know that vegetables are healthy for our kids. The first thing you need to understand is that you are not failing as a parent if you can’t get your child to try new veggies. There are many of us out there -- you are definitely not alone!
Why are kids so reluctant??
To a kid, veggies can look funny and smell even funnier. Most vegetables have a more complex flavor that takes some getting used to. Remember a time when you tried a new food or beverage; maybe you didn’t like it at first, but over time, perhaps you grew to like it.
Humans are born with a preference for sweet tastes. In fact, breast milk – a baby’s first food – has natural sugars like lactose, so babies get quickly accustomed to the sweet taste.
As a parent, if you approach eating vegetables just like you would your child learning any other new skill like walking or toilet training, you will be less stressed and likely feel much less pressure. You will also likely be more patient.
Don’t Overdo It
Remember the phrase “everything in moderation.” Don’t overdo it trying to get your child to each vegetables. They need a balanced diet with a variety of protein, vegetables and fruits. Don’t fret if your child does not eat vegetables; they can get nutrition without them and they will still assuredly grow and thrive. Be sure to not let your angst translate over to your child; if you are constantly worrying, the child will pick up on your demeanor and that will make eating veggies harder for both of you.
However, nutrition is much easier if your child eats vegetables and/or fruits, since the two do have very similar nutrient profiles. However, know that your child’s health is not purely defined by whether they eat lots of vegetables. Just as important is exercise, downtime and nurturing.
Don’t resort to force, bribery or tricks. There are much easier ways. Here are a few of our favorites.
The best way to instill in your child a lifelong love of vegetables is to make them taste delicious. Luckily, this is not rocket science! Prepare them with seasonings and spices. There is nothing wrong with making sweet potatoes with lots of butter and cinnamon – yum! Try steaming carrots in orange juice instead of water to bring out the natural sweetness. Butter makes everything better, and so does bacon, so cook veggies like green beans that way.
Children typically have a much easier time eating fruit, so try to make mixed salads that have fruits like strawberries along with greens. You can throw some nuts and cheese in there too.
No Or Low Pressure
Perhaps the best next piece of advice is to keep low or even no pressure. Children are no different than adults – these little humans will likely dig their heels in the more they are pushed to do something, just like we do, right? Don’t coerce or force the child, don’t make them stay at the dinner table until they eat all their vegetables, and certainly don’t negotiate! When you get really frustrated, and feel your blood pressure rising, chant this to yourself: “Parents provide, children decide.” It will help. It is your job to serve healthy meals, but it is definitely your child’s job to decide whether to eat the food you serve.
Children who feel relaxed at meal time or snack time are more likely to try different foods. Pressure makes the child dislike those foods because they associate the foods with negative feelings.
Try to avoid giving any type of reinforcement, whether that is negative or positive. Reward and punishment don’t typically work. Depriving a child of dessert if he or she won’t eat broccoli will just make the child hate broccoli even more. Avoid the flip side, too – don’t reward the child with dessert if he or she does eat broccoli. Simply make both the vegetables and the dessert a child’s choice.
The goal here is to teach the child over time to trust his or her own body as a guide to food decisions. Eating healthier means more energy and children learn this as they age. Teaching a child that eating certain foods is earned could have detrimental effects down the road, like the child developing problematic eating behavior.
Food pairing is a tried-and-true technique that parents use. Many a vegetable has been consumed this way! Basically, food pairing means serving the new vegetable alongside a food that the child is already familiar with and loves. Here is an example. Let’s say your child loves grilled chicken. If you usually serve it with mashed potatoes and butter, try serving it with sweet potatoes and butter. It is not too big of a change for the child, and it likely won’t be all that intimidating.
Dieticians call the chicken a “neutral food component”; that is a fancy way of saying the chicken is something your child already recognizes. Pairing that chicken with a new vegetable is a surefire technique.
As long as you are food pairing, try to make it as fun as possible. Amaziya's bearry bowl can make that happen. Kids love the bowl because it makes it fun to eat veggies and fruit. The bowl is sectioned, so you can put the chicken in one section and the new veggie in another.
The sections also make it very easy to control your child’s portion sizes, which is so very important these days to prevent overeating that can later lead to obesity.
Parents love the bearry bowl because it is made of 100 percent food grade silicone and is BPA free, therefore it is safe for your child and your dishwasher. It is oven safe (up to 350 degrees) and microwave-safe, too. The bowl suctions to the table to keep messes at a minimum, too. Just to make sure, the bowl comes with a mat that fits most every high chair tray.
We’ve put lots of science behind this bowl! The design promotes self-feeding and helps your child develop his or her fine motor skills. It is lightweight and compact, which makes it easy to take to your favorite restaurant or on family trips.
Food pairing takes time, so keep at it. Keep introducing and reintroducing foods this way. As a parent, you have so many things to do, so it is easy to give up, particularly if you are tired of temper tantrums and your child rejecting food over and over again. Repeated exposure to the same food can desensitize your child over time; eventually the child will likely accept the food. Researchers who have studied this phenomenon say that a child might need to see a new food 15 times before trying it, so don’t give up, no matter how frustrating and exhausting it can be. Be stalwart! Vegetable training is hard – only the strong survive!
Kids Can Cook, Too!
One of the absolute best ways to instill a love of vegetables and fruits is to let your kids help out in the kitchen. Of course, it is always safety first, and you have to be sure to give your kids age-appropriate tasks and to always have a responsible adult supervise at all times. Don’t give a sharp knife to a two year old, and don’t let young children cook over an open flame. You’re a parent; you know the drill and the do’s and don’ts.
Children who help plan and prepare meals begin to demystify food. They learn where foods come from and if it is a vegetable, how it is grown and prepared. Involvement in these activities has a positive impact on their own eating behavior.
Lead By Example
And of course, the gold standard of parenting is to lead by example. You know it applies to everything, and not just food. If you want your kids to eat healthy vegetables, you have to as well. If you sit around the dinner table, and you have a hamburger and fries, but you’ve loaded your child’s plate with broccoli and asparagus, you can see that dinner won’t end well.
Your own eating habits are the single most important influence on your child. Be honest with them. Let them see your plate heaped up with asparagus, and tell them the true story of how you didn’t always like it, and what changed your mind. They’ll listen to you, respect you, and ultimately follow your lead, so be sure to lead by example.